Having freedom of tempo / SUN 3-17-13 / Bay former US base in Philippines / Classic verse that begins Ah broken is golden bowl / Middle brother in 2000s pop trio / Epithet for Nadya Suleman / Young actor Smith / Hit single-player game of 1980s / Either Zimbalist
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Constructor: J. R. Leopold
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Any Pun For Tennis?" — familiar phrases, clued as if they related to tennis
- 23A: Tennis clinic focusing on drop shot skills? (NETWORKING EVENT)
- 38A: Coaches who help you use your wrist in shots? (SPIN DOCTORS)
- 49A: Tennis players who clown around? (COURT JESTERS)
- 67A: "For a righty, you hit the ball pretty well on your left side," and others? (BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS)
- 88A: Line judge's mission? (FAULT-FINDING)
- 96A: "Nothing" and "aught"? (LOVE HANDLES) — this clue (unlike all the others) has nothing directly to do with tennis. Odd. [I *know* LOVE means "nothing" in tennis—I'm talking about the clue. Clue clue clue. That's why I italicized "clue." Well-meaning emails on this issue can stop now, thanks.]
- 116A: Luke Skywalker's volley? ("RETURN OF THE JEDI")
- 17D: Mistakenly hitting into the doubles area during a singles match? (ALLEY OOPS)
- 78D: Start of a tennis game? (SERVE TIME)
Word of the Day: RUBATO (54A: Having freedom of tempo) —
n., pl., -tos.
Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure; a relaxation of strict time.
Containing or characterized by rubato.
[Italian (tempo) rubato, stolen (time), rubato, past participle of rubare, to rob, of Germanic origin.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/rubato#ixzz2Nki0gE1x
• • •
An important announcement up front about a friend of mine and a frequent contributor to this blog's comments section, Jennifer Tanner (JenCT). If you've attended the ACPT in Brooklyn in past years, you've seen her—long brown hair, bright smile, wheelchair. Jen has MS.
I have a particular affection for Jen—I sat and watched the ACPT finals with her a few years back, and got to meet her and her family (incredibly sweet people). Jen has also made neckerchiefs for both my dogs out of this crossword-patterned fleece material. Now, I generally shun all crossword-patterned garments, but my *dogs* wear those neckerchiefs proudly, every day. Anyway—Service dogs are super expensive, and Jen is trying to raise $9500 to offset the cost of raising her dog. The non-profit NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, aka Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans) does amazing work, and Jen has a personal webpage there that allows people to donate directly to the cost of her dog. Please, if you are at all able, if you have enjoyed this blog and/or the people who read it, if you have even a spare $10, please consider contributing to Jen's cause. If you were considering donating money to this blog this year (as many of you generous people have), please, give it to Jen instead—at least 'til she meets her goal. Then, by all means, send all your spare cash to me. Jen is a lovely woman and an important part of the community that has grown up around this blog. Any help you can provide would be Phenomenal.
[UPDATE!!!!!!!!! (3/21/13)—within four days, thanks to generous Rex readers, Jen's $9500 goal was met! Behold the power of CrossWorld!]
I took one look at the title and shouted "No! God, no! No puns for tennis!" Then I accepted my fate and dove in. As pun puzzles go, this one is pretty good. Answers themselves aren't punny, but their clues turn them into a species of pun, I suppose. Aside from the fact that there's nothing particularly tennis-y about the clue [Note that I say "clue," not answer; clue. Clue clue clue. Clue.] on LOVE HANDLES, the theme was consistent and the "puns" at least mildly interesting (I like the idea of Luke Skywalker swapping out his light saber for a tennis racket). Lots of middle-length non-theme fill gave this one some life. JOE JONAS (32D: Middle brother in a 2000s pop trio) and OCTOMOM (35D: Epithet for Nadya Suleman) gave the puzzle a contemporary feel, and most of the other 7+-letter Downs, while not scintillating, are at the very least solid. DIM PAST was the one that took me longest to get—found it really irritating until I got it; then I thought, "yeah, OK, that works" (52D: Barely remembered days of old).
I do want to point out, however, that this is the third day in a row with a questionable cross. I should not be able to tell you at what exact square most people non-finishers / mistake-makers will wipe out, but I can tell you with almost complete certainty that today, that square is the RUBATO / SUBIC crossing. Let's all agree that SUBIC (44D: ___ Bay, former U.S. base in the Philippines) is by far the more obscure term of the two, and probably the most obscure thing in the grid. The vast majority of solvers are going to have to piece SUBIC together *entirely* from crosses, and all those crosses are common phrases or terms from non-specialized languages—except RUBATO, which requires specific, specialized knowledge indeed. I pulled RUBATO out of god knows where (after entertaining a "G" and an "M" for that square), but the point isn't how I got it or what I do or don't know or whether you, specific dear reader, "knew it." It's that one can foresee the inevitable failure of many solvers, right there. In that square. Guaranteed. This is not a flaw in the solvers—it's a flaw in the construction. It's not about whether you should or shouldn't know RUBATO or whether it's valid. Of course it is. Not the point. It's that you've got a *highly* obscure geographical term crossing clearly specialized knowledge at a totally uninferrable square. This is a design flaw. To illustrate my point further, let me direct you to SUBIC's symmetrical counterpart — an equally nutso-looking bit of fill, NACIO (70D: "Singin' in the Rain" composer ___ Herb Brown). As with SUBIC, I had to hammer that thing out *entirely* from crosses. But check out NACIO's crosses: COMPLIMENTS, RARE, SAUCER, FINDING, ODE. Not a specialized term or odd word in the bunch. Clue 'em as trickily as you want, everyone has a fair chance of getting them, eventually. This is why I can tell you that despite NACIO's obscurity, no one is wiping out on that side of the grid. *If* they are wiping out, they're wiping out across town, where the manifestly bad cross is. This is not a "bad luck" problem, the way some struggling solvers seem to assume. This is a structural problem, an editorial / construction flaw, and people who make these things for a living know it. The problem is that ordinary people don't test these things. Pros do. And sometimes I wonder if they can see where crosses are going to go terribly, horribly wrong. Today's isn't as bad as either Friday's (yeesh) or Saturday's (that obscure LEE guy had not one but two not-that-famous proper noun crosses—totally avoidable clusterf**k). But I still think you gotta do something about a crossing that will predictably and unentertainingly blow up the grids of a sizable chunk of solvers.
Of course it's possible your problems involved OLERUD / AMIDOL (59D: Batting champ John + 64A: Photo developing compound) ... or that you had no problems whatsoever.
Again, I liked this puzzle. Solid work. The bad cross thing has Got to stop, though.
- 9A: Classic verse that begins "Ah, broken is the golden bowl!" ("LENORE") — EAPOE! (now *there*'s some ugly fill). Sort of in my wheelhouse and it still took a good deal of effort.
- 32A: Young actor Smith (JADEN) — Will Smith's son. I could think only of JADA for a good long while (she's W. Smith's wife).
- 119A: Hit single-player game of the 1980s (SIMON) — Ha ha. Awesome. I was totally baffled until I got the last cross, and remembered that damn fat disc with the primary-colored buttons that would play a sequence that you'd then have to play back. That was SIMON, right? Clue had me thinking video games. Big mistake.
- 2D: Setting for a 1935 Marx Brothers comedy (OPERA) — as in "A Night at the..." Not a big Marx Brothers fan. Took me a while. I thought "setting" would be a geographical location at first.
- 9D: Modern kind of name (LOGIN) — Clue felt nonsensical at first. But it's ... sensical enough.
- 68D: Anchor-hoisting cry ("HEAVE HO!") — I love this. And TIP JAR (99D: Container on a counter, maybe). Seriously, there's really not That much gunk in here. It's just that the small bits of gunk are Pretty Gunky (see above).
- 80D: Either Zimbalist (EFREM) — I admire the "whatever" attitude of this clue.
- 92D: 1958 hit with the line "Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip" ("GET A JOB") — I love a clue I have to sing to get. Yes, that literally happened—me just saying "yip" a bunch of times. Hey, it worked.